This month’s special election will bring an end to the tumultuous race for the 15th Senate District seat
If you have turned on the television, opened a newspaper, or switched on the radio in the last three months, chances are you’ve heard the names John Laird and Sam Blakeslee. Their bitter battle for California’s 15th State Senate District seat has been highly publicized and hard to miss. The special election that will end the race is Aug. 17.
It all started on April 27, 2010, when Republican Abel Maldonado vacated his 15th District seat to assume office as lieutenant governor of California. Republican Blakeslee,
Democrat Laird, Independent Jim Fitzgerald, and Libertarian Mark Hinkle entered the fray for the 15th District seat, which includes parts of Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz counties (including Scotts Valley, Mt. Hermon, East Zayante, Summit Area, Pasatiempo, Happy Valley, Soquel Hills, Aptos Hills, Rio Del Mar, La Selva Beach, Seascape, Corralitos, Aromas and Watsonville).
In a move that outraged democrats, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opted to hold a special primary election for the seat on June 22, rather than combining it with the November general election. In the special election, Blakeslee took 49.4 percent of the vote to Laird’s 41.8 percent, but no one received the 50 percent majority necessary to win the seat outright. Fitzgerald and Hinkle garnered 5.9 and 2.9 percent of the vote, respectively, and all four candidates will appear on the ballot for the Aug. 17 run-off election.
The upcoming election date will at last put an end to the drama and smear campaigning that has marked this election. Laird, who is a former Santa Cruz mayor and 27th District Assemblymember, has portrayed Blakeslee as a big oil advocate, funded by big oil companies who “know they can count on oilman Sam Blakeslee to keep voting for more drilling off California’s coast,” as said in one of Laird’s television ads.
Blakeslee, who is the former 33rd District Assemblymember, has run ads stating, “Times are tough enough without politicians like John Laird” and depicting Laird as the “tax man.” Both have blasted their opponent’s negative tactics and claimed to be falsely represented.
Along this vein, Good Times asked, in emails to Laird and Blakeslee, “What would you say is the public’s (or your opponent’s) biggest misconception about your campaign?”
Blakeslee responded, “The biggest misinformation has been about my record on environmental protection. My opponent wrongly claimed I was an oil executive. I was not. In fact, I was a research scientist and managed company budgets. He then asserted that I support opening the coast to drilling. I do not.”
Laird responded that, “No major taxes were raised during the time I was in the legislature.”
GT then asked if the candidates believe their opponents have run an honest campaign. Laird responded with the following: “My opponent has been a no-show in this campaign. Unless you’ve paid money at the door, had a private meeting or had a spontaneous interaction with him somewhere, you haven’t had access to him in this campaign. After he first agreed to my offer to debate, he only committed to debates that take place after a large majority of the voters have voted via absentee ballot. He has benefited from nearly $2 million in attack ads against me, most of which were financed directly by his campaign or by special interests including Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Pharmaceutical, Big Banking and Big Insurance.”
Blakeslee answered that he has “worked very hard to run an honest campaign.”
“Every piece of information we present to the public is thoroughly researched and citations [are] provided for voters [so they] can themselves verify the facts,” he writes. “While I am concerned about some of my opponent’s representations regarding my views on the environment, I trust the voters to see through the attacks and understand my record as a leading voice to protect the environment.”
Both candidates listed creating a responsible budget as their first order of business upon getting elected, and when asked, “What are the three most pressing issues in your district?” both candidates mentioned jobs and education. Where they differed: Blakeslee added agriculture, writing “The Central Coast has some of the most pristine rural landscapes in the state. Working agriculture helps preserve this precious open space while also providing jobs across the district. Our environment, our economy and our rural way of life require that we aggressively defend agriculture here on the coast.”
Laird spoke of “making sure that state parks are adequately funded.”
“There are as many state parks on the Central Coast as almost anywhere in California,” he writes. “They anchor our visitor-serving local economy. A recent study shows that every time a state park is visited, that visitor spends on average $57 in the surrounding community. I authored the original proposal to fully fund our state parks and allow free access to cars registered in California—I support the similar proposal that is on the ballot in November.”
Early voting in this election is already under way. Santa Cruz voters can pick up a ballot and vote at the counter at the Santa Cruz Elections Department (831) 454-2060 and the Watsonville City Clerk’s Office (831) 768-3040.
For those who have yet to vote, all four candidates have agreed to participate in a forum, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Santa Cruz Weekly newspaper, which will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12. KION-TV will also broadcast the debate and post coverage on its website, kionrightnow.com.